2009 Research Journal #1

International Art in Early Childhood Research Journal

Margaret Brooks

University of New England, Australia

Kathy Danko-McGhee

University of Toledo, Ohio

Rosemary Richards

Massey University, New Zealand


In February 2007 the 2nd International Art in Early Childhood Conference was held at the University of New England, NSW, Australia. This conference had the theme of Our People, Our Place, Our Time, which celebrated art in early childhood in and across international social, cultural and historical contexts.

The goal of this conference was to bring together art and early childhood/primary educators, researchers, and practitioners into an expanding and increasingly interdisciplinary discussion about art in early childhood. This conference produced over 60 abstracts from 21 countries and helped to identify emerging directions in understanding how young children experienced art and communicated their ideas and experiences visually and through the arts. The response to this conference attested to the fact that researchers and educators in the field of early childhood art needed a venue in which to meet and through which to publish their work. As a result a 3rd International Art in Early Childhood Conference will be held in Singapore in 2009, and this journal was launched.

The conferences provide a platform to hear children’s voices & to bring together a community of academics and researchers at the international level. The journal serves as a vehicle to continue this important dialogue. As an arena that provides a voice for children, early childhood art educators and researchers, the International Art in Early Childhood Research Journal is a much needed and unique forum.

One may wonder why the focus is on the visual arts and not the arts. It is because there has been no tradition of a strong and formal voice for the visual arts in early childhood. At a time when literacy and numeracy dominate the academic scene, it is timely to recognize the unique experience that the visual arts offer young children. It is important to recognize that children make meaning and communicate through the visual arts. In addition, there is a growing body of research and researchers in early childhood art that need a robust and rigorously peer-reviewed journal within their field.

This first edition features seven articles, all of which have been blind peer reviewed by at least two reviewers. These research based articles come from researchers based in Australia, Korea, New Zealand, Sweden and America.

Margaret Brooks
University of New England, Australia

Using Vygotskian perspectives, Margaret Brooks considers how five- and six-year -old children, in her Canadian research, used drawing as a mediational tool to develop greater understanding of concepts and to communicate with others. Reporting on the children’s investigation of shadows, Brooks demonstrates how their drawing acted as a metacognitive tool that promoted higher mental functions as the children progressed from spontaneous concepts to scientific concepts.

This article reminds us how important it is to encourage children to not only share their drawings at an interpersonal level, but to also provide the opportunity for children to engage in drawing at an intrapersonal level as they develop more complex and abstract drawings and thinking.

Also using an ethnographic approach and Vygotskian perspectives, Linda Knight, examines the collaborative relationships that can exist between adults and children when art-making. For one month Knight collaborated with her 21 month-old daughter when drawing and painting, to see if both parties experienced a rotating exchange of leadership when creating the work. This article provided an interesting insight into the multimodal communication that existed between a very young child and an adult that expanded their art-making repertoires in a home-based setting.

Young children’s art experiences are explored in Rosemary Richards report on an aspect of her research that investigated four young Australian children’s experiences of art in their homes, early childhood centres and schools. The children each had digital cameras and acted as co-researchers who regularly discussed their photographs of art and wider experiences. The photographs, interactions and discussions formed the basis of co-constructed research narratives which aimed at making sense of art experiences from the children’s perspectives.

Richards’ article considers how the research method of child-initiated digital photography was useful for recording and sharing the children’s art experience, allowed the children to take some control over research processes and provided them with an artmaking media. Using Vygotskian frameworks this article considers how digital photography acted as a mediating device that heightened consciousness of art experience, promoted dialogue on interpersonal and intrapersonal planes and brought into focus the importance of home-based art experience in terms of family relationships, the physical environment and family shared funds of knowledge.

In a departure from the other articles on early childhood art experience, Ingrid Andersson and Sven Andersson researched the aesthetic representations among Himba people in Namibia. In the context of this article the term ‘preliterate’ is used to describe a society that has not yet developed a written language. Their research considered how the two mixed age groups of Himba people solved the problem of making three-dimensional sculptures and two-dimensional drawings where one group was asked to create a clay sculpture before drawing and the other group drew without first creating a sculpture.

They found that both children and adults drew tadpole type figures and drawings from the sculpture/drawing group were more likely to show more than one view in their representations of human figures. Their study challenged a simple age-related drawing theory that has realism as an ultimate goal, as participants produced culture-specific features with significant recognizable social meanings in both sculptures and drawings. The findings were also considered from a Vygotskian perspective, where creative production involved a combination of different elements to show something new – an activity which both changed the present and was future oriented. Their work adds to cross-cultural perspectives on art-making and has implications for how people of all ages respond to early art experiences and how such experiences might be extended.

Kathy Danko-McGhee looks at the importance of educating pre-service teachers to listen to the voices of young children while designing a learning environment for them. Taking place in a museum setting, pre-service teachers had to become acquainted with the art works in the galleries prior to designing a learning environment for young children in the museum’s Family Center. As the pre-service teachers struggled with the meaning of aesthetics, creativity and critical thinking, they conquered many challenges in providing a suitable learning environment that changed frequently as the children’s voices were considered.

The article reminds us of how important it is to engage our pre-service practitioners in field experiences where they have the opportunity to hear the voices of children and respond to them.

Adequately preparing pre-service teachers is also a concern in the article by Francis Alter. The topic of critical and creative thinking is highlighted, and while these terms can stir long debates in art and early childhood fields, Alter hones in on a working definition for each.

As she explores the implementation of critical thinking and creativity by students in a classroom setting, she discovers in her observations that teachers who are not trained in the visual arts, but who teach art, have vague concepts about how their students demonstrate creative and critical thinking skills while engaging in art experiences. This forces us to revisit a re-occurring problem in our field when non-art teachers are teaching art. Alter suggests that pre-service teacher education must focus more on these two concepts so that teachers are better prepared to nurture creativity and critical thinking in their students.

Finally, Jung Sook Rah explores the way young children utilize drawing as a vehicle to convey their understanding of the world. In a project about wind, children’s beginning drawings were simple and often demonstrated a lack of understanding or an inaccurate concept of the wind.

After engaging in an in-depth project to explore the many different aspects of the wind, the children’s concepts of the wind had changed. By the third phase of the project, it was revealed that the children’s drawings became much more complex as their understanding of the concept of the wind increased. This project demonstrates the power of drawing as a tool to convey how one understands their world.

Disclaimer: The views in this journal do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors

Article 1 Margaret Brooks What Vygotsky can teach us about young children drawing
Article 2 Linda Knight Mother and child sharing through drawing: intergenerational collaborative processes for making artworks
Article 3 Rosemary D. Richards Young visual ethnographers: children’s use of digital photography to record, share and extended their art experiences
Article 4 Ingrid Andersson & Sven B. Andersson Aesthetic representations among Himba about people in Namibia
Article 5 Katehrina Danko-McGhee The environment as third teacher: preservice teacher’s aesthetic transformation of an art learning environment for young children in a museum setting
Article 6 Frances Alter Understanding the role of critical and creative thinking in Australian primary school visual arts education
Article 7 Jung Sook Ra Wind project in a Korean kindergarten: A project-based art activity in early childhood

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